This Mental Health Awareness month, there has been extensive discussion about the myriad ways the COVID-19 pandemic — the uncertainty, fear, isolation, and instability that it has produced — impacts the mental health of everyone. If someone already has underlying or preexisting mental health conditions, symptoms likely are exacerbated by current circumstances.
For those who have experienced severe ongoing depression, pandemic or no, treatment options often look different. Touchstone TMS, a mental health practice in Lakewood, specializes in helping those with treatment resistant depression, which means someone has dealt with depression for an extended period of time and hasn’t improved with multiple medications and therapy. The practice has remained open during COVID-related closures and continues to take on new clients for its multiple cutting-edge services.
The main treatment focused on by Touchstone TMS is in its name: TMS stands for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and is an FDA-approved treatment for major depressive disorder.
“TMS has a very positive response rate,” said Dr. Kris Peterson, the primary doctor and owner of Touchstone TMS. “We have about a 60 to 70 percent response rate, which is defined by a reduction in symptoms by 50 percent.”
TMS is FDA approved and is supported by insurers for treating major depressive disorder, though Dr. Peterson said it also has been seen to be effective for generalized anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. About five days a week for about 30 minutes over a six-week period, patients come to the clinic, where a device attached to their head uses magnetic fields to stimulate underactive regions of the brain that are involved in mood regulation.
Dr. Peterson has been practicing in the mental health field for more than 30 years — 26 of which were in the military — and has been associated with TMS for the last eight. He opened Touchstone TMS in November of last year to provide a high level of care — he also offers psychiatric services — alongside a unique and effective treatment.
“We’re very present, we know the patients,” he said. “I think that this can be done in the best walk if you really get to know the folks you’re treating. We’re not trying to mass produce anything but give individual care and a high level of support and awareness. I think that’s really vital for success.”
Though the Puget Sound area was initially slow to have clinics specializing in TMS after the machines were approved in 2012, according to Dr. Peterson, he said the treatment has recently gained more traction in the area because of its effectiveness and few side effects.
Despite COVID-19, Touchstone TMS still is operational, and Dr. Peterson also noted that some insurance companies have reduced the approval criteria for TMS for first responders and other essential workers to support their mental health throughout the course of the pandemic. Find out more about Touchstone TMS here.